"Meetings with VT friends" Personal Page by b1bob
Jimmy Shaw, whom many of you know as "brazilnut30" came to visit for the period around the American Independence Day. We had planned in principle to get together early on, but the opportunity for a meeting presented itself earlier than we thought. Originally, Jimmy and his German friend Thomas Breitling wanted to stop by here before the 4th of July and be in Washington, DC for the big holiday. However, it was widely feared that terrorists would pick that day and that place to strike. I finally prevailed with reason over emotion in persuading them to celebrate Independence Day more off the beaten path. The afternoon they got here, we hit the ground running. We had supper in Ashland, a few miles to the north of Mechanicsville. We went not only to dine at the Smokey Pig, but also to walk along Railroad Avenue to admire the old houses along the highway bisected by railroad tracks. The following day consisted of a double-header in terms of "must see activities". First, we went to Evelynton Plantation in Charles City, 30 miles (50 km.) to the southeast of here. See my Charles City, VA page for details. That evening, we went to a picnic and fireworks display in the small rural town of Montpelier 30 miles (50 km.) to the northwest. On 5 July, Jimmy, Thomas and I toured downtown Richmond, touring the Jefferson Hotel lobby, taking the lift to the top of the (new) city hall building, and the Museum of the Confederacy. We packed in a lot of touring, but we also had time to relax. Touring is a good thing, but I will remember the quality time with good friends like Jimmy and Thomas longer.
Mark and I had talked for quite a long time about meeting up here on a 3-day (bank holiday) weekend during a time when temperatures were moderate. The plan was all along to visit Richmond, Charles City, and Williamsburg. So, on saturday, 12 October, round about noon, Mark arrived. I had guided him in by his cell phone since just after his crossing the Varina-Enon Bridge over the James River. After a guaraná and a light lunch of Puerto Rican chicken and rice, we hit the ground running. Since the Capitol tours ended an hour before most everything else in Richmond, we took that tour first. Our guide, Mrs. Turpin, reminded me of an old teacher I had. Then we were off to the Museum and White House of the Confederacy. Time constraints prevented Jimmy from seeing it in July, but Mark and I lucked into it. We had the most intelligent and witty guide I've ever seen in the many times I had taken the tour. After that, the sun came out and we took snaps around Capitol Square. Then, we decided to go to the riverfront and pass through the trendy Shockoe Bottom and canal walk. We took supper (a Greek pizza) at Bottoms Up Pizza. The following day, we had the double header of Colonial Williamsburg and the Berkeley Plantation in Charles City. At Williamsburg, we saw the governor's palace, the armory, the courthouse, the capitol, the Wren Building at the College of William & Mary, and did some light shopping at Merchants Square. We dined at Shields Tavern on something that looked like it had come from the Food Network. After lunch, we moved on to Berkeley Plantation in Charles City which is approximately equidistant between Richmond and Williamsburg. Berkeley Plantation is known for a number of firsts See "acemj" Charles City page for more on those firsts. You would think that after all the touring we did that Mark and I would be knackered, but we had plenty of time to relax and catch (American) football and baseball games.
In March, 2003, I took Mark up on his invitation to visit him in Charlotte. On that trip we visited Asheville and the Biltmore Estate and Uptown Charlotte. I don't know when I have eaten this well in the space of one weekend. I had Spanish food, creative American cuisine in Asheville, Southern comfort food and Peruvian cuisine. It was a delicious adventure as well as an excellent adventure.
I spent the weekend of 26-29 March 2004 with Mark the weekend before his 32d birthday. Straightaway on arriving, we took a late supper at Taste of Havana and settled into his house. The following morning the 27th, we toured Ballantyne and Charlotte Knights Stadium before going off to Columbia, South Carolina for the day. On the 28th, we toured Charlotte's northern suburbs- the UNCC campus, Concord and Kannapolis. On the way back, we swung by the Charlotte Museum of History and the trendy North Davidson section locally known as NoDa. For Mark's birthday that night, I took him to Brazas Churrascaria.
The fourth meeting was 8 July 2004 as Mark transitioned from Charlotte to Philadelphia. Richmond and Mechanicsville are at roughly the midpoint between Charlotte and Philly, so Mark stayed here for the night. We ate supper at Zorba's Greek Restaurant in Richmond's West End and just hung out that night. He went on to Philadelphia the next morning. The fifth meeting will surely involve much more touring.
This meeting came together rather suddenly and out of a stroke of luck. Originally, I had planned to be in Charlotte, NC on the weekend of 28-31 March to be there on Mark's birthday. However, Mark's boss intervened, necessitating the change in plans that moved up my trip to Charlotte to 21-24 March. That freed me up to meet up with Richie as he drove up from Fort Lauderdale, Florida to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, just before a lengthy trip to Germany and Eastern Europe. (Mark and I also had better weather on 21-24 March than we would have if things had gone according to original plan.) Originally, Richie had talked about popping in on me in Richmond. However, I figured it might be more fun to meet in Northern Virginia or Washington, DC. Richie asked Kent to join us at the Capitol City Brewing Company in Arlington and the meeting was set. We only intended to be there 2 hours, but we lost track of time and were there for 3. I was bent on paying the bill, but Kent beat both Richie and me to it, invoking the "home town" rule. When we get together in Richmond or South Boston, VA, it'll sure enough be my turn.
The original plan was to have more time and, hopefully, better weather. However, an opportunity presented itself for Phil and me to get together for a day on the last day of March. It was to be a truncated adventure. We visited Agecroft Hall, Monument Avenue, The Jefferson Hotel, The Museum of the Confederacy, and Capitol Square. For lunch, we ate at the Waffle House in Mechanicsville. For supper, our first choice was Dunn's Barbecue, but there was too long a queue for 'cue, so we had to settle for Mexican at La Casita. He had to catch an early flight, so we sat up until 2am when he hit the road for Reagan National Airport.
On 13 October 2004, I met Maciek "Matt" Niwinski in my driveway as the first of a larger series of excellent Southern adventures. This was noteworthy because Matt is the first foreign VT friend I met. They had gone through a harrowing first day of travel. As if it weren't bad enough, a delay in Poland caused them to miss their Amsterdam-Washington connector, the airline lost their luggage. They made American soil, but approximately 9 hours late with an unscheduled stop in Detroit. After we finally met, we were off to Richmond right out of the chute. We first had a bit of lunch at Dunn's Bar-B-Q and then to the Museum and White House of the Confederacy. The capitol building had just closed for the day when we finally arrived. We toured the capitol grounds pockmarked by construction and scaffolding. Then, it was off to Monument Avenue, where Richmond pays homage to its Confederate heroes and to the Hotel Jefferson. We found what must have been a brand new Brazilian restaurant on Monument Avenue. The following day, it was off to Berkeley Plantation in Charles City and Colonial Williamsburg. My adventures with them were scheduled to be over on Friday, 15 October, they invited me to join them for more up in Northern Virginia. I accepted that invitation riding up with them to go home later that day, showing them George Washington's home in Mount Vernon, and going to Dulles Airport to help them reclaim their bags and see to it they were compensated for the clothes they bought at Wal-Mart two nights previous. The excellent adventure would have ended soon after Dulles, but the notorious Northern Virginia traffic made me miss my train back home. However, Matt, kodi01, and balfor invited me to join them at the supper VT meeting and crash on the floor of their hotel in Arlington. So, I did that, and toured Washington with them part of the following day. As a result, I had the time of my life with such great folks, not to mention getting double or treble the tips I would have otherwise. Details on appropriate pages. Almost from the beginning, the plan was for them to stop by here their final night in the United States. That's exactly what we did. Almost straightaway on their arrival from Raleigh, we went out to eat at Extra Billy's Barbecue and for dessert at Krispy Kreme doughnuts. The following day, I went with them up to Northern Virginia to make sure they caught their plane home in a timely fashion. We got the last of his postcards mailed from the local post office, and still had a couple of hours to kill before they had to be at the airport. It was a rainy day, so, instead of walking on the GMU campus (my alma mater), we went to Fair Oaks Mall, and ate lunch at the 29 Diner before going to the airport.
Since the election in November, 2004, John John_P_LSU came up with the idea of having a VT meeting in Washington during the inauguration. Besides myself, others that showed early interest were Yubert, Tania skye820, Frank frankcanfly, and a few others including abby333. As things drew closer, we knew that Yubert would pick up most of the tickets, figuring that in California distance and politics would make the demand not as strong. I helped them settle on a decent restaurant that was big enough that we could all sit together for the meeting and one that was not too far from the festivities. What we finally agreed on was Jaleo which is one of 3 local tapas bars of that same name. Picking the restaurant was the easiest part of the planning process. The two hard parts, from my perspective, were getting together with Yubert on Inauguration Eve to get my tickets and finding everybody on Inauguration Day. Because we all stayed in different places across Northern Virginia, it was nearly impossible to come together given the cordons and roadblocks made necessary by the 11 September 2001 atrocities. I gave up on meeting them at the appointed spot on the Capitol's west lawn, but held out some hope for the parade. After almost getting trampled when the ceremonies were over, I gave up on that idea too. There was still hope of getting together at Jaleo. As the parade got delayed more and more, that started to fade. With the parade already an hour late, I figured the rest of the lot was starting to get hungry too. So, I had to take a very roundabout way there thanks to the security cordons. I zigzagged my way to Federal Center SW metro station to Gallery Place-Chinatown via L'Enfant Plaza. I walked by Jaleo and there they all were. I stopped in a little late, took pictures with everybody and had me some date and bacon fritters. It was a pain in the bohunkus trying to find everybody but it was well worth it when I did. I made at least 3 new friends. Since some of the security measures couldn't be announced in advance, it was nearly impossible for us to set places to meet or even alternate places to meet. For those, of whatever political stripe, who want to plan an inaugural VT meeting for 2009 and down the road, my advice is to have everybody stay at the same place so y'all can stay together.
Lee gipper84 and I were friends seven months before he joined us on VT. Because he is a more local friend, our meetings are too numerous to outline in this alotted space. In the 7 months before he joined us, we have toured significant parts of the state on various events and assignments. Also, we make it a point to eat out regularly and to try out a new restaurant (if not a cuisine) which neither of us had eaten before. Lee has done some tall traveling in his own right to Germany, Cancún, the Bahamas, New Orleans, and Orlando.
On 9 September 2005, I met David "Karnubawax" after more than a year of VT friendship. I was fortunate to be one of only two members on his friends list at that time. He came to Richmond to see the race at Richmond International Raceway, planning a larger trip to Virginia around that. Since this trip came together for him after all the hotels had been well-booked, he relied on my longstanding offer of hospitality. That first night, he was tired after flying all day from San Francisco via Philadelphia (I guess his arms were tired). I had supper ready when he got here. Since the race was in the evening, we could get some light touring during the day. So we toured the Jefferson Hotel, the Virginia War Memorial, and all the monuments on Monument Avenue. His real cultural adventure came at lunch when he tried collard greens for the first time at Sugar & Spice restaurant. Stunningly, he rather liked them. The following day, we toured other parts of Richmond all day with Lee gipper84 and part of it with Andy Hopkid. We toured Carytown and ate lunch at Double T's barbecue restaurant with Andy and the three of us toured the Museum and White House of the Confederacy, the whole of the Canal Walk, and ate supper at Bottoms Up Pizza. The following week, David toured other parts of Virginia with a brief interlude into Maryland and the West Virginia panhandle (to see the Antietam battlefield in Maryland). Because David flew in and out of Richmond, he stayed the last night (18 September) here as well. Lee and I took him out to eat supper at Carini Italian Restaurant and dessert at Krispy Kreme Doughnuts. No, we didn't hit everything, but that gives him an excuse to come back.
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